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“Put your flags up to the sky”: The 2026 World Cup returns to North America

Amy Pulster

In 2026, the World Cup will be hosted in North America for the first time since 1994. 

FIFA increased the number of participating national and international teams from 32 to 48. The last increase happened in 1998. 

The FIFA council, composed of people around the world, voted on each location during its meetings. 

It selected 11 cities in the United States, two cities in Canada and three cities in Mexico to host the games. 

Mexico City will host the first game at Azteca Stadium on June 11, 2026. It has not been decided yet which team will be playing.

The concluding game will take place at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on July 19, 2026. MetLife can host up to 82,500 audience members.

New York/New Jersey has beaten out other favorites, such as Dallas and Los Angeles, to host the finals.

The owners of MetLife must convert the stadium’s newly installed synthetic turf field into a natural grass field, which will consume time and money. There are concerns about the turf-to-grass field transition, making the finals at MetLife questionable in some people’s eyes. 

However,  switching to grass is safer for players than turf, which can cause injuries to a player’s leg and ankle. Turf injuries have been known to rule out players for extended periods of time in dire need.

At the NFL Honors, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson was asked if he and New York Giants owner John Mara started conversations about the transition from a turf to grass field. 

“We discuss it at least once a week, what we can do and how we can do it,” Johnson said. “Metlife is the busiest stadium in the world.”

MetLife is the location of many sporting events and acts as a concert venue throughout the year.

NRG Stadium, home of the Houston Texans, received the opportunity to host seven matches. However, it must temporarily change its name to the ‘Houston Stadium’ due to FIFA regulations regarding corporate stadium names. 

“Going way back to the big process, there’s always things that you work through before you even bid for an event, so we are super thankful to our corporate community, especially NRG in this case for stepping up and agreeing even before we put the bid in to help us with this,” CEO of Harris County Houston Sports Authority Janis Burke said.

The increase in the number of teams from 32 to 48 is a good thing. It will showcase more countries and their players, creating more opportunities for them. 

Similarly, the selection of MetLife was more of a business decision, considering its association to the New York market as opposed to the Los Angeles and Dallas market.

As for the fans, it’s more soccer, or futbol, to watch and to get excited about.

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